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Harekrishna Deka

The Dawning

The crows are cawing
On the abandoned barracks

in the waiting water of the river
the night recedes into distances

Are the soldiers hiding
under the broken wooden bridge

The highland maids coming for a dip
would not know

The yellow mustard quivered
as the sun glowed on their fair breast

The soiled dark night
comes on back to the top of the barracks

The highland maids shaking with laughter
do not know that yet

After dipping in blood the night long
how ruddy the morning sky would be.

Translated by Pradip Acharya


On the bare forked branches
The full moon stands crucified
As in the picture.

The ridges of the house gleam
Like skulls in the moonlight.
Do they come or do they go?
Their heels kick up dust or red ants.

All at once I hear the chorus of hurrahs.
In the open sky
The bullets whiz with glee like a flight of birds.

I feel I am my slave. Only their bayonets
pick up their days all clammy with blood.

Translated by Niren Thakuria


Tonight I had no sleep. Not insomnia,
Not fear, nor any weakness.
I canít fall asleep.
The confused tumult
Drifting like the drone of beetles
Ended long ago.
The unclouded picture of stars
Shines even over the city.

The emerging moon stands on the floor of the sky
Is it a reflection of my manhood?
The golden field of crops glistens
I realise that like all women
The earth becomes pregnant,
Do the abundant crops dancing in the waves of moonlight
Give an inkling of some illicit love-affair?

I do not know all that, nor understand,
Ah, the joy of sleeping on the lawn of moonlight.
I hear the bewildered cry of deer
Floating on waves of moonlight.

I realise that all the harvest, all this golden crop
Will return as droplets of honey
To your tender bosom.

Translated by D. N. bezbarua


It was they that laid over his bosom
The flag at half-mast.

It was they that buried his hands
Into the road they marched across.
In the darkness of the night,
So it is said,
The stars of the sky blossomed
    Oíer his dry fingers.

None knows this.

Does anyone believe this?

Those two hands, and that road
Hid themselves in a river of pebbles
    that flowed through a dark tunnel.

And yet
Oíer his bosom he is now weaving
    a green curtain
     For his sake, and for all others.

Translated by Emdad Ullah


Those of us who lived every night in the cry of birds
Fell into the midst of winds with the bufetting of a gust.
Dashed by winds, our bodies lost shape time and again.
Those bodies that golden snakes had coiled.
In their breathing we had lost consciousness time and again;
Only for a while were their kisses sweet.
On our chests blows of a golden hammer,
In the strings of our brains reverberate ceaselessly
    monstrous sounds ---
The same strings on which had sounded
The xylophone of the nightís river.

Another gust of wind wipes our tears ---
Our salty tears with a gust from the sea ---
The wind that one day fails to flutter
A sail on any sea-going ship,
Only rebounds and comes to our midst
As a gust of salty wind.

A gust of wind snatches away our horses --
Horses that were companions of the day --
Only fingers fingers of steel leave inscribed
Their shadows under the trees, where we rested
    one day.
Suddenly with the whistling of a jet plane,
Our blue sky falls on the light of liquid quicksilver,
Which cover the footfalls of our horses.

In a gust of wind are the slaughtered voices of
    our birds,
That very gust wafts our laughter, raising pitiful
We rolled in laughter.

Translated by D. N. Bezbarua

A Winter Nightís Procession

On a winter night a procession moves past me.
Torches raised by many hands beckon me from those
         bright islands.

How do I see their sparkling dances? through my eyes?
         Or through my head?

They march forward. A whiff of hot air rushes up above
         my head.

A daybreak I see their anaemic faces in a heap of
         swept up Sefali flowers,
And a fresh yet bone-chilling wind makes its way over their
         fallen faces.

Translated by Harekrishna Deka

The Sea-scare

I am awfully frightened of the sea
But the sea itself remains totally nonchalant about it all.
The mystery deep below the sea is beyond my grasp,
It keeps me guessing as to
What music sways it,
Music of death or music of life?
To the sea of course all this is no mater at all.

This is the reason why a am frightened,
Awfully frightened am I of the sea
The deep dark look of a woman
With a baby inside her womb
And the language of her weary eyes eludes me
The language of the sea eludes
Me in the selfsame way.

The sea itself is a fabulous woman
Ceaselessly in a state of conception
And yet more conception
Who can tell what breed she might deliver?
Is it the band of fabled brigands of Avi?
Myself a father, begetter of a thousand children,
I have raised my offsprings,
Put light on their eyes
Offered them my heartís language
My headís ways and aspire
To sign to them Timeís undying music.

So I have come searching for
Conch-shells within the sea
But suddenly a fear struck me, a gripping fear --
Indeed awfully frightened am I of the sea.

Time too itself is total lack of concern
The past, present and the future
Mingle and make one Time;
You dance around it,
A cluster of bioscopic shadows
I canít identify you even with an effort
I rue that and then fear grips me swiftly:
Who would identify my one thousand offsprings?
I know tides would sweep the Indus
The same tides which swept away
Many bright and old cities of the past;
Such floods would recycle,
The sea would expand again,
Dark shadows and death would come
With muted footfalls
And would suddenly reach very close ---
All this raises my fear,
The sea indeed is my scare.

Even then , let the conch-shells rend the air
Though I know dark silhouettes
Would descend suddenly and
By and by the ripples of music
Would be stilled.

The sea itself seems unperturbed,
The sea is ceaselessly going in the family way.
The seeds of creative sense are now
Spread out all over my being,
Yet I am frightened of the sea
And the mystery of her very ancient bosom.

Translated by H. N. Dutta


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